Haggadah for Jews & Buddhists: A Passover Ritual Paperback – January 31, 2007
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Tired of using the same Haggadah over and over and over again? Ready to shake things up a little and get a fresh perspective and, hopefully, some heightened spiritual insight?
Then this is a Haggadah worth considering. Written with all the traditional Hebrew prayers, this is perfect for mixed families, as both Jewish culture and Buddhist philosopy are represented.
This was written primarily for Jews so don't assume it is a thorough representation of Buddhism. However, it does use Buddhism to add an extra bit of peace, stillness and, yes, even meditation to the Passover ritual.
As you might expect, the more violent aspects of the Passover story are balanced by the emphasis on peace of Buddhism (at least, the Buddhism represented here).
Each year, we try to bring something new to our holiday. Perhaps you'll find value in doing the same. If so, this book could be one great way to do so. --K. Corn "Reviewer" of the first edition
The Four Questions Meet the Four Noble Truths
Even though I grew up in an agnostic Jewish family, the Passover seder was an important event every year. Passover was the only Jewish holiday we ever celebrated.
So it was with some trepidation that I approached the Haggadah for Jews & Buddhists. While Buddhist meditation practice is very important to me, I am not all that adventurous when it comes to Passover.
But as I read through the Jewish/Buddhist hagaddah, an attempt to express the universal theme of Passover to traditional Jews, Buddhists and people of diverse spiritual leanings, my trepidation melted away and I found myself intrigued by the idea of trying something new.
Right from start, this hagaddah, written by Elizabeth Pearce-Glassheim, speaks to the symbolic power of the holiday as it describes the enslavement of the Jews and their journey to freedom as a metaphor for consciousness and our own striving for release from attachment and toward spiritual growth.
While this hagaddah is structurally the same as Reform-style seders and includes all the familiar sections, it's the language and interpretation that makes all the difference.
I jumped ahead to the Four Questions, probably the most important part of the seder for the way that it perpetuates the Jewish tradition of questions and dialogue.
In this section, the authors speaks directly to the traditionalist, the humanist or secular Jew, the Buddhist, and non-Jewish friends, a thought-provoking attempt to explain the universal meanings of Passover to a diverse group of people.
As I read it, I recognized that my Buddhist self has everything to do with my secular Judaism.
Now the really big question: Do I want to integrate these two traditions and conduct a Jewish/Buddhist seder?
I think it's worth a try. If I can communicate Passover's message of freedom while conveying my interest in self-discovery and spiritual growth to my children, I say why not?
Whatever happens, it should, at the very least, provoke a great conversation over our gefilte fish. --Louise Crawford, InterfaithFamily.com
About the Author
In the past two decades she attended and co-hosted more than two dozen Seders attended by friends of all religious and spiritual beliefs. To make Passover meaningful to Seder guests at her home, she began creating version of the traditional Seder story to emphasize its universal themes meaningful to Traditional Jews, Buddhists and others.
- Publisher : Modern Haggadah Distribution; 2nd edition (January 31, 2007)
- Language : English
- Paperback : 96 pages
- ISBN-10 : 0977322122
- ISBN-13 : 978-0977322121
- Item Weight : 4.8 ounces
- Customer Reviews:
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Let me establish some credentials: I am a practicing religious Jew and yeshiva student. I have studied the Haggadah and its history intensely in school and outside of school. I wrote my own Haggadah this year for my family to use because I found others insufficient for our seder. In addition, I have lived in Buddhist communities in India and Nepal doing charity work. I have stayed in a Tibetan nunnery and met the Dalai Lama privately. I am not a Buddhist practitioner but I am familiar with at least some of the basics. If that's not enough for you, I don't know what else I could actually add to my resume here.
(1) The Haggadah makes the most basic mistakes in the ordering of the seder. "Seder" means "order." The ORDER of events is so important that we actually sing a song about it at the beginning of the seder, a song which is included in the book. Yet somehow the introduction and the actual text make several mistakes in the order of blessings. The candle lighting is in the wrong place. The third cup of wine is in the wrong place. Even if you just read the Wikipedia page on the Haggadah you would know these things.
(2) Misquotes! Quotes from rabbis and Buddhist teachers are taken wildly out of context. Taoist clip art is used to highly the Four Noble Truths. What, could you not find an image of the 8-spoked wheel somewhere on the internet and shrink it?
(3) Inconsistent editing. The editor says you can chose any word you want for G-d's name and substitute it in for the blessings. She chooses one to use for blessings early in the book (Shehkina - which is ... bizarre) and then goes back to Ad-nai later in the book. If you're going to use an old format or make your own, you have to keep it consistent.
(4) I have to say a little bit about the theology of this book. I assume someone who buys and intends to use it has done the mental hopscotch required to convince yourself that you can be both Jewish and Buddhist and not be violating major principals of one or the other. Or maybe their commitment to both is just not very high. There's a central issue with the Haggadah, which tells the story of the Jews leaving Egypt. As the author admits, most Buddhists lack the idea of an omnipotent, personal god in their theology, and so the author advocates for instead trying to harmonize very different worldviews by referring to the Aiyn Sof, an unknowable, ultimate source of G-d that connecting to is like achieving Enlightenment. If you go back up to the Ayn Sof you have definitely left samsara. I think any Kabbalist would argue that. The problem is this isn't the god of the Exodus story. G-d is a very person, very active mover. He's the one who promises Abraham that his children will be slaves in Egypt and then will be freed. He's the one who orders Moshe to go to the Pharoah and tell him to free the slaves. He sends the plagues. He parts the waters. He drowns the Egyptians. Dayyeinu - "and it would have been enough" - that G-D did those things FOR the Jewish people. They did not do it themselves. If anything, the Exodus story and the Torah itself is a long tale of a people who are not very good at doing things for themselves and are prone to disobeying G-d (the sin of the spies, the sin of the Golden Calf) at the earliest opportunity. G-d cannot be written out of this story. It emphasizes again and again that we are free because of things that G-D DID FOR US. This does not parallel well with the Buddha's basic teachings about discovering the truth of the world for yourself.
(5) Not very creative use of Buddhist teachings. There's actually a ton you could say, from various sources, about Passover and how it forces us out of our complacency and teaches us about suffering. Instead it barely mentions the Four Noble Truths - which, if you don't know already, why are you at a Buddhist seder?
(6) Again, I'm not sure who this book is for. It's not meant for Jews who are not Buddhists, because it's full of avodah zora (idol worship), which is basically the worst sin a Jew could possibly do. Siddhartha is mentioned on the same page as G-d. His teachings are compared to Torah. You can have Buddhist philosophy in your daily life but this goes beyond that by introducing someone that millions of people worship into a sacred Jewish ritual.
It's not for Buddhists who are not Jews. Sure, if you're not Jewish, a seder might be fun to go to if the food is good and you want to get some wisdom out of shared cultural experiences. That's the same reason I go to Losar celebrations or watching Kalachakra initiations. But the story of the exodus is a really, really specific story about a specific group of people who are ancestors to a current specific group of people who have their own laws, customs, and beliefs. It's just not that applicable to a lot of other people when you're spending a lot of time with the nitty-gritty of it. G-d isn't going to swoop in and rescue the Tibetans from slavery under PRC taskmasters - though it would be nice if He did, and I would be happy to be proven wrong (Bodh rangsten!)
For Jews who are Buddhists - take some interest in the OTHER teaching of the Dalai Lama: (paraphrased) "People should keep their own cultures and traditions." More than a few Jews turned Buddhist monks have been not so happy to hear that from him. I'm trying to save you some time.
Pearce-Glassheim notes at the beginning of her book (pp. 2-3) that the Buddhist tradition has always blended into local culture, and that it's a comfortable fit with Judaism. The Haggadah, or Telling, is a reliving of the drama of liberation. So it's entirely appropriate that the Buddha's Four Noble Truths, which offer a liberation from suffering, be part of the ritual (p. 12); that Genshe Langri Thangpa's "Eight Verses for Training the Mind," guides for liberating ourselves from illusion, be chanted (pp. 12-13); that the Buddha's teaching on will power be related to the ancient Hebrews' determination to be free (pp. 43-44); and that the Haggadah conclude with an invocation of the Being that lets being be, Ayn Sof, the indwelling Presence, a prayer that Buddhists, Jews, Hindus, Christians, Muslims, and people of all religious faiths can embrace (pp. 60-61).
Haggadah for Jews and Buddhists, I'm confident, will ruffle the comfort level of some readers; they'll find it too syncrestic for their taste. But many others--and I'm one of them--will find its interfaith approach to a holy and great religious celebration spiritually expanding. Highly recommended.